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Nuñez opening some eyes

New York Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez (26) laughs

New York Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez (26) laughs as he sits in the dugout in the bottom of the sixth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Yankee Stadium. (June 28, 2011) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

There have been moments in the infield, cringe-worthy moments in the infield, over the past 13 games when Eduardo Nuñez looks exactly like what he is: an understudy pressed into emergency duty.

And there have been others at the plate -- such as Nuñez's game-winning RBI single Sunday on Old-Timers' Day -- when the 24-year-old infielder look like a star in his own right.

Despite committing some pretty unsightly errors in his first 12 starts since Derek Jeter went on the disabled list, Nuñez's performance at the plate has helped him create fans both in the stands and in the Yankees' organization. And one of them is manager Joe Girardi.

Before Tuesday night's rout of the Milwaukee Brewers at the Stadium, Girardi said that although Jeter will remain the team's starting shortstop when he returns from rehabbing his strained right calf injury, he is going to do what he can to get Nuñez on the field and in the batter's box.

"I think this kid's got a bright future, I do," Girardi said of Nuñez, who entered the game hitting .293 in his 12 games in relief of Jeter. "He needs experience, he needs to play at this level every day to get used to that, as well, but you can see there's a lot of talent in Nunie, and there's a lot of upside to Nunie. I'm happy with what he's done."

Not so happy, however, that he's ready to get sucked into controversy over whether the Yankees night be a better team with Nuñez in the lineup. The Yankees are 10-3 since Jeter went down. But, when pressed by a reporter to do so in his pregame news conference Tuesday night, Girardi just laughed.

"Derek has been our shortstop. You're asking me to open a huge can of worms, and you know I don't even do that," Girardi said. "Derek's our shortstop and Derek brings it every day and plays every day for us and does a great job for us. We think Nunie has a bright future for us, but right now, he's not Derek."

Nuñez, who was 1-for-3 with a walk and two stolen bases Tuesday night and is up to .250 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 111 plate appearances, will be used at short, third base and second base, once Jeter returns. Girardi said he might also consider using him as the designated hitter. Jeter has started his rehabilitation in Tampa but the team has not set a date for his return.

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